With increasing amounts of information online, the number of touchpoints potential customers have with a brand before converting is skyrocketing. According to a Think by Google blog post, it might take 20 touchpoints to make a decision on a candy bar, and more than 500 touchpoints to plan a vacation. So you need marketing tactics and a content strategy that nurtures their need for additional experiences.
There are so many competing voices influencing how consumers get their information and make their buying decisions. Official brand information, user reviews, third-party content that may or may not be sponsored by a brand – a consumer doesn’t always know which outlet to trust. That’s why your brand awareness strategy, and how it intersects with your content strategy, are so important.
Most people cherry-pick among the content they see, building a perception and making a decision based on a number of factors. One of the most influential factors is what message they trust the most.
Brands are more challenged than ever to create a brand awareness strategy using the most effective marketing tactics to reach their target audience – and more challenged than ever before to quantify success in any particular arena.
So let’s learn how brands entice, engage and influence a customer to purchase using content strategy and social proof marketing tactics to build trust.
How Information Wins the Zero Moment of Truth
The foundation of any worthwhile marketing and sales tactics is information. The source of that information makes a significant difference in customer buying decisions.
Google outlines customers’ sophisticated journeys from the moment they first encounter advertising to their ultimate decision to purchase in what it calls “Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)”.
The ZMOT approach outlines customers’ sophisticated journeys from the moment they first encounter advertising to their ultimate decision to purchase. The seven steps to winning customers’ hearts, minds and purchase dollars are:
- Put someone in charge.
- Find your zero moments.
- Answer the questions people are asking.
- Optimize for ZMOT.
- Be fast.
- Don’t forget video.
- Jump in!
The ZMOT approach to marketing addresses the core fundamentals of digital marketing practices, rather than focusing on new, disruptive thinking. Of those fundamentals, step 3 is by far the most important. Answer the questions people are asking. To do that, you need lots and lots of quality content.
Content Strategy: The Front Line of Sales
We’ve all heard that “content is king,” but do we really know what that means in terms of more effectively engaging with your customers and spurring sales?
Consider these statistics that highlight the importance of content as the cornerstone of your sales and marketing tactics.
- In 2019, 25.8% of internet users blocked advertising on their connected devices. The figure is expected to keep growing.
- According to DemandMetric, 80% of people appreciate learning about a company through custom content.
- In 2018, 49% of B2B buyers said they rely more on content to research and make purchase decisions, DemandGen reports.
Clearly, well-informed consumers are moving themselves much further down the sales funnel before making warm-blooded contact.
Let me repeat that: your prospective customers are moving themselves through the sales funnel.
What makes one article more relevant to the consumer vs. more relevant according to the latest search algorithm update?
At the end of the day, content success is all about trust.
Why Credible Content Is the Real King
Because customers are far smarter than ever before about virtually any given product or service, there has been an increasing demand for organizations to use a more consultative approach to selling regardless of how commoditized the product may be.
This suggests then that with marketing’s reach moving further down the sales funnel, that consultative selling is reliant on more consultative marketing. And much of that consultative marketing comes in the form of content.
The Ascend2 Content Marketing Engagement Survey found, by far, the type of content most trusted by target audiences was research/case studies, with 60% of marketing professionals agreeing. Next up was photos/infographics (34%), then blog posts/articles (31%).
Demand Gen Report’s “Content Preferences Survey” found similar results, citing 75% of buyers agreed content producers should use more data and research to support the suggestions and claims made in their content.
What this means for your brand is that you must develop a blended content strategy that serves all of the needs of your customers at every stage of the buying process. What does this look like?
- Develop content with trusted experts first. Releasing content from credible, third-party experts establishes the foundation of trust necessary for brand familiarity, brand affinity and purchase intent.
- Tell your story. Branded content will engage your customers and help them connect with you.
- Reinforce your message. Encourage your customers to share their stories and reviews.
As you build your content strategy, remember that you need production of all types of content. As new expert content supports and reinforces the branded and user-generated content, you’ll rise above the noise and build on the foundation of trust.
User-Generated Content Builds Trust via Social Proof
Social proof is one of the most powerful elements you can implement into your website’s content strategy to convince visitors to become buyers.
Imagine this: you’re making your first visit to a large but not very well-known store. You’re looking to pick up a few things, and you’re the only person in the entire store. What runs through your mind?
You might be thinking, “Why am I the only one here? That can’t be a good sign, could it? Should I trust this store? I’ve never been here before. How do I know if these products are any good?” The experience might leave you with a very unsettled feeling.
Guess what? That’s how some of your visitors may be feeling while on your website. Think about it. The online shopping experience can be incredibly lonely. There are no other people around to give an indication that your store is good.
Have you ever driven past a dining hot spot to see patrons lined up around the block? That’s a pretty good indication the place is popular, isn’t it? Whether it’s the food, the people or the ambiance, people want to be there.
But when shopping online, there are no social cues from other shoppers that convey their feelings about the store or the products being sold there. You can’t even see what they’re all buying.
Have you ever been in a shopping line next to another shopper and thought, “Hey, I want one of those!” Sometimes a sale happens that way.
So how do you remedy the isolated online shopping experience for shoppers and let them know that other people like what you’re selling? By implementing social proof.
People want actual proof that your stuff is good. And the more you can give them, the better.
There are myriad ways you can implement social proof into your website’s content and brand awareness strategy. Below are a few tried and true marketing tactics to help increase social proof.
Content Strategy and Marketing Tactics to Increase Social Proof
1. Referral programs
Referral programs are valuable because they provide the opportunity for your customers to do the marketing for you through word of mouth advertising. The “Chatter Matters: the 2018 Word of Mouth Report” found 83% of Americans say a word of mouth recommendation from a family member or friend makes them more likely to buy what’s being recommended.
Word of mouth advertising is one of the most neglected forms of advertising, yet it’s one of the most powerful. So why is this advertising so powerful?
Consumers are overwhelmed with a barrage of product choices, but word of mouth recommendations cut through the noise quickly and effectively. When you implement a referral program, you give your visitors the opportunity to tell their family and friends about your products and services.
The best route to take is to reward visitors with cash, discounts or prizes when their friends or family become customers.
Think about it this way: you’re spending marketing dollars to bring in customers hoping that those dollars will actually turn visitors into paying customers. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that happens. There’s a good possibility your marketing dollars could be wasted.
The beauty of a referral program is that with one in place, you only spend money when prospects actually do become paying customers. How can you possibly lose?
Testimonials are another way to increase social proof. If you’ve been too busy to add a few of the glowing testimonials you’ve received to your site, you’re missing out.
Testimonials aren’t quite the same as getting a recommendation from a friend or family member, but they do have an effective impact on lifting conversions.
Take, for example, this split test that was conducted by Switzerland-based, international hospitality and hotel management institution Hotel Institute Montreux (HIM). Their original lead generation form is pretty straightforward:
HIM tested it against the below page where a student testimonial was included.
Adding this testimonial above the lead generation form was a deciding factor for visitors and increased conversions by 50%. Furthermore, the increase in conversions also translated to a 54% decrease in cost per lead. The credibility of a testimonial can be further increased by including a photo of the person who wrote the testimonial.
Highrise saw a 102.5% increase in conversions after redesigning the page on the right to include the photo of the person making the testimonial.
If you’d like to potentially increase conversions even further, consider adding a video testimonial to your website. Doing so increased free trial sign-ups for Unbounce by 25%.
3. Customer reviews
Customer reviews provide a little more credibility over testimonials because your customers make the actual input on your site. This is because customers must typically create a profile before writing a review. You can usually also see other reviews they’ve written for other businesses by looking through their profile.
A report by Podium found 93% of consumers say online reviews impact purchasing decisions. One good example of how customer reviews helped to lift one business’ conversion rate is Express Watches.
The authorized Seiko watch dealer has been in the retail watch industry for more than 21 years, shipping its products to more than 23 countries. A survey revealed that customers were leery they might get ripped off with a replica watch.
Credibility was of the utmost importance. So Express Watches provided a 2-year Seiko warranty along with a 30-day return policy. Yet, they felt they needed to provide more.
A split test was conducted with a test page that implemented a customer-review widget. Here’s the original page.
And here’s the test page:
A Trustpilot widget was added to this page right below the “Add to Basket” button displaying customer reviews from the Trustpilot website. Trustpilot is a website that gathers customer reviews. It has a widget to show off reviews of your website and products. The widget is especially useful if you’ve yet to bring in high traffic and gather many reviews.
Adding the Trustpilot customer reviews widget did in fact help to increase Express Watches conversions. The company saw a 58.39% increase after the addition of the widget.
Trustpilot is especially useful because the reviews come straight from Trustpilot visitors with no hidden agenda.
4. Featured clients
Another way to show visitors your stuff is good is by telling them about past clients. Well-known names and high-profile clients are obviously the most impressive. It’s also recommended that you display the logos of those brands.
Logos have a way of adding instant brand recognition. Logos are also much more noticeable than if you were to just mention a past client within your copy because there’s no guarantee your visitors will read it.
What could this look like? Check out Digital Current’s own Clients page as an example.
5. Media mentions
Has your business been mentioned in the media? Here, again, the higher the profile of the publication, the better.
If your products or services are of value and fit nicely into a related topic, write a few articles and submit them to a few high-profile publications. You’ll need to make sure any content you create for these publications is high-quality and doesn’t come off as too promotional.
6. Influencer endorsements
Is there someone who’s highly regarded by your target market whose endorsement would have an impact on their decision to buy? Consider sending them a sample of your product or service and ask for a recommendation.
Jeff Goins, author of “The Writer’s Manifesto,” did just that. He sent his book to marketing guru Seth Godin, who responded with, “Pow! This is a good one, a wakeup call and just what you need to read. Thanks, Jeff, for sharing your art.”
Pretty impressive, right?
Putting It All Together: Marketing Tactics to Build Trust
Establishing credibility, building customer trust and effectively answering your customers’ questions requires a delicate balance between expert, branded and user-generated content and sharing both facts and opinions.
Using credible content and social proof establishes your brand as a trustworthy authority, which helps convert consumers into leads and customers.
Digital Current can show you how to develop a strategy that maximizes your lead generation efforts and targets potential customers no matter where they are in your sales funnel.